December 20, 2013

Snowmen and such

Not exactly sure how it got to be Friday, the 20th of December, already. The speed at which December has flown by has, however, not left me completely frazzled.  At least for the last day of school before Christmas vacation, I was prepared.  It was a day of high fives for mom!

Although I forgot to take a picture of the cupcakes for FBLA, my Thursday ended with 18 cupcakes frosted in white with blizzard blue and irridescent white "snow" (sugar) and candy snowflakes on top.  There was also a 2nd and 3rd pan of peppermint bark (btw, go with the Ghiradelli instead of the Hersheys; the result is a gazillion times more reliable and will likely result in far less swearing from the chef).

And, the piece de resistance, 29 snowmen in cake pop form! Some have ear muffs with white iridescent sugar hair. Some have bright blue hats with blue sugar and white candy snowflakes.  A few have a "charcoal" nose, but most have orange candy coated sunflower seeds for noses.

You know what else there was? A GIGANTIC learning curve for those cake pops.  I followed the Betty Crocker recipe for snowmen cake pops to the letter, folks.  And five hours at the kitchen counter later, I was just finishing the blue caps.  Do you know why it took so long?  Well, let me tell ya!  Betty Crocker said to use meltable candy coating, both white for the head and blue for the hats.  On closer examination of the picture that went with the recipe, Betty Crocker, however, elected to NOT FOLLOW THEIR OWN DIRECTIONS and went with the much more attractive and significantly EASIER and time-saving fondant, which was wrapped around the cake instead of trying to dip cake balls upside down on a stick into hot melted candy coating.  With fondant, you also don't have that unattractive issue of dripping or little errant cake pieces making your snowman lumpy.  Like I always say, that's what I get for following the directions! And you know what you can't find much of during the Christmas season?  Pastel circular confetti sprinkles.  I had to pick out the pink ones from the fun confetti mix. Regardless, my cake pops were the hit of the party and more than one mother gave me that look as we stood around the snack table.  You know the one.  (The one that makes you want to do your own end zone victory dance.)

But there was also the finishing of Christmas projects.  The last of Rocket's scarves is done. (And P.S., I continue to despise Sashay.)

And there was the hat for Scout #2.  The hat is the Earwarmer Hat pattern, and though my kid is more about the fashion than keeping his ears warm, that 3-inch band is double-stranded and will keep his ears warm in our just-cold-enough winter weather. He's supposed to fold up that ribbing, but I'm glad he prefers not to because the wrong side of ribbing isn't as attractive as the right side.

And after way too much time driving kids around today and the whirlwind of Scouts getting ready for a winter campout/hike this weekend in the mountains, I'm all done in for this week!  I'm down to a half-completed mobius cowl that will surely be done tomorrow and 2 pair of socks.  Movies and knitting … that will be my weekend.

Now if we could only get some snow instead of the forecast temperatures in the 70s to put me back in the winter knitting mood.  Farmers' Almanac, don't fail me now!

December 18, 2013

December Whirlwind

I think I may have, for the first time, done it.  By "it" I mean that I have gotten the Christmas cards out in time to arrive BEFORE Christmas--that almost never happens.  I have put together (it took about 4 months of canning) our first Cedar Hill Farm Company gift baskets and they are shipping out today to family and friends on literally every border of the U.S.  My Christmas shopping is DONE--two weeks earlier this year than last--and all but the few presents still to arrive (I think Bass Pro and Justice may be the SLOWEST shippers of goods in the history of the world!!!!) are wrapped, shipped, or under the tree.  The tree was up by the 5th of December this year instead of the 21st of December like last year. The lights were up by the 15th, and we even have a new mantel on which to hang out stockings.  I feel like I've won the lottery, though I didn't actually and I'm a little miffed about it right now, and this year is a definite testament to the power of "The LIST".

But for as impressive as all of the above is, the Christmas knitting spreadsheet is coming up a bit short and I am a bit stressed (ok, SUPER stressed!) about the knitting left to be finished up.  It's been coming together so much more slowly than what I had scheduled that I had to take some time to make myself a few gifts for new inspiration.  Of course, I also made about 16 new ones for my Etsy shop, too, so go check those out if you also feel the need to give yourself an inspirational knitting gift.

This was where I was yesterday:

Three pair of socks (four if you count the completely invisible one that I knit for Honey and then had to tear out completely and start over with 7 days in which to knit a pair of man socks) are finished.  Two are on their way to someone else's Christmas tree, and I wasn't bright enough to photograph them before I wrapped them.  One pair, Honey's socks, are pictured (and wouldn't you know that he wants me to tear them down to the heel to make the foot "just a little more snug"). The partially knit pair and another I've yet to cast on are for the boys, and Lady Luck is on my side because they are A) going to be gone all weekend and I can knit on them in secret on the front porch swing (going to be in the 70s?! this weekend) and B) they are going to be gone until after Christmas--that shared custody thing REALLY sucks at the holidays--so that gives me an extra week of frantic knitting.  But since I am done with all of the other prep-for-Christmas duties, all I have to do around her is clean, bake, take care of animals, and knit anyway.

A last-minute request for a wool beanie in hand-painted cadet blue and dove grey from one of the boys is pictured with the ribbing done (plus 5 inches of invisible knitting because the pattern was a little small for his big head and I've had to re-group).

One pair of Urbanista Gloves in hand-painted BFL for my mother-in-law, finished.

One 54-inch mobius cowl cast on and begun for the step-daughter (I'm loosely following a pattern but does that little circle of red really look like it's going to be 54 inches?!). The thing about mobius knitting is that you never really know what it's going to look like until you cast off.  I will be knitting nervously all the way.

One ruffle scarf begun in black/silver for Rocket (raise your hand if you HATE fake knitting with SASHAY as much as I do!), one already finished (pictured), and one bulky Tunisian crochet scarf in pink heathered with turquoise and purple finished.  This last ruffle Whew!

And I should be knitting instead of blogging, so see ya! May your hands be swift and your last-minute Christmas knitting be done before Christmas!

December 05, 2013

Back to Square One: A Sock Drama

I keep reminding myself that there is no crying in knitting because it is, after all, not the end of the world if you make a careless mistake or, say, two weeks of careless knitting mistakes.  Those man socks … the pair that I am (was) knitting for my Honey … let's just say the adventure is gone and now it's just a matter of stubborn knitting to meet the deadline.

I'm not really sure what possessed me to knit all the way to the toe decreases before it occurred to me to have my Honey try them on, even under the guise of them being someone else's gift.  I'm not sure why I elected to follow someone else's pattern and then not check after the initial ribbing to see if I was getting gauge.  I'm not sure why I didn't double-check the CO math against the gauge.  But I will say this about a pair of socks that are now back to pre-cast on stage:  If we had a Yeti that needed a pair of thick, warm socks, they would have been smashing!

So it's back to the drawing board.  This time, before I ripped out 3 hours here, an entire Saturday afternoon of heels and 2 weeks there, I measured my gauge so that I could calculate a realistic cast on number for the next time I cast on, which really needs to be in about 3 minutes because I now have exactly 10 days to re-knit a pair of man socks.  The other pair on the needles is going to have to be ripped out, too.  Although I did use my brain enough to take down the cast on number by 8 stitches (1 inch, gauge-wise) on the other pair because I was using a less heavy yarn, on closer inspection it turns out that I'm still coming up with about 1.5 inches too much in the leg width (which will translate to a behemoth heel later on) and that's just not something I can decrease out. There are many expletives floating around in my brain at the moment that I won't share here, but the reality is that this is all my fault.  I was so focused on the deadline and my knitting schedule to hit the finish line with an record-setting amount of last-minute knitting done that I carelessly disregarded ALL of the rules of knitting.  Let that be a lesson to you.  Honor The Rules.

And the icing on the cake to all of this is that while removing the needles from the socks to rip them, one end of the fixed cable detached itself from a needle and now I'm down a pair of circs. Crap.

December 04, 2013

Knitting Plain

I have reached the point of boredom with my current Christmas gift sock projects.  I'm knitting man socks, too many man socks.  The problem with man socks for my guys is that they are not "fancy" sock wearers; they like plain ol' socks. And the other problem:  I could knit two pair of socks for me for every one pair that I knit for a man/boy in my household.  They are just that big. Man socks, therefore, are the equivalent of hours and hours and hours of mind-numbing plain knit stitch.  In circles.

But this knitting plain stitches is not as easy as one may think if one happens to be a newbie knitter or a "thrower".  The thing about plain stitches is that you can't hide your gauge and tension issues in a cable or a moss stitch or several inches of ribbing.  Your stitches are out there for all the world to see.  You have to knit perfectly even stitches, one after the other, row after row.  Mine aren't machine-knit perfect, but at a glance they are pretty darn close.

When you are knitting in the round, you don't have a wrong side on which to pull in your tension a little to compensate for loose knit stitches, either.  So, what's the trick to even knit stitches every time?  Well, there is one, and I try to teach it to my knitting students from the get-go, though there is often a great deal of argument and fussing on their part.  The secret is … knit at the tip of the needle.  I like to bunch up as many stitches as possible on the left needle and knit them at the very tip of the needle.  Not only does this improve your tension, but it makes you a faster knitter, even if you are a "thrower", which I am not.  I like to knit in a Continental style, holding my yarn in my left hand like I would if I were crocheting, so that the right needle needs to make just a slight movement to catch the yarn and pull it through the loop.  Doing it my way, I am also able to pick up speed by slipping the worked stitch off the left-hand needle as I am pulling the working yarn through that same stitch.  But this post is not about speed, it's about tension.

The other thing that is extremely important in maintaining an even tension is that you keep a consistent taughtness (is that even a word?) to the working yarn every time you make a new stitch.  If you knit like I do, then that's controlled by the left hand that is also holding the left needle (by the way, if you knit like I do, then there is no "left hand holds both needles while yarn is wrapped around the right one" going on--you never have to let go of either needle).  If you "throw", then you adjust the tension of your stitch after every stitch.  This needs to be automatic, as in you tighten the new stitch before you knit the next one.  If you don't do this, then you have to go back along your row and pull the working yarn of the new stitches, one stitch at a time, to work out and even tension across the row and pull out excess yarn among stitches.  That's very time consuming.  It's better to just tighten each stitch after you make it.

So if you find yourself knitting plain stitches in a circle for hours on end, try knitting at the tip of the left needle.  I'll bet it makes you and your knitting better friends.

Update:  One pair of 14-inch circumference man socks finished, two more (one slightly less in the circumference, hallelujah!) on the needles and one of those is knit to the toes.  I've worked out that I have 12 days per sock to get all 4 pair finished by Christmas, though the one closest to completion is actually a before-Christmas birthday present.  Funny story … I think I am going to have to rip it back to the leg and re-do the heel.  I did a short-row heel and it looks wonky.  And I think the ankly is too wide.  I might have a sock-knitting breakdown over this pair.  You know what I think the problem is?  I actually followed a pattern for this one by someone else who isn't me and I think her CO number was WAAAAY off!  I'm going to have to be sneaky and get Honey, for whom these socks are being knit, to try one on.  I told him I was making it for one of the boys, so maybe he won't suspect otherwise.

There is also supposed to be the knitting of a slouch for Rocket and gloves for my mother-in-law and the gargantuan cowl (something like a 5-foot circumference DK weight mobius cowl with lace stitches) that my step-daughter saw on Pinterest a few days ago and, apparently, desperately needs me to knit.  I'm thinking the cowl might be belated because as it is I will have carpel tunnel so badly that I'm going to be in twin wrist casts by Christmas.  You wouldn't believe it, but I did plan ahead for Christmas--way back in August I had the projects all mapped out, last-minute cowl request excluded--but somehow didn't get around to starting my projects until November.

December 02, 2013

Giveaway Winner(s) & Cyber Monday Free Shipping

The giveaway for a printed copy of the Knit Picks 2013 Bulky Collection pattern book ended yesterday.  There was a slight glitch that I didn't realize until this morning with the entries: some of you followed directions and posted your comments on the blog post; some of you didn't follow directions and posted your comments on the FB page.  Luckily for you all, I'm trying to get into the holiday spirit earlier than usual, so here's how we'll work this:

The winner of the printed pattern book goes to someone who posted on the blog page:

#5 is Angela Stumpf.  Please contact me with your email address and I will send it right out!

For those of you who opted for FB, the winner of that group of comments receives a digital copy of the pattern book:

#4 is Dianne Askew.  Please contact me so that I can reply with your electronic pattern book.

And now that this business is concluded, it's Cyber Monday and I'm going to give everyone free domestic shipping today on any order from my Etsy shop.  Use code CYBER at checkout.

I hope your holiday projects are zooming along!  More later this week on how my lengthy list is knitting up.

November 20, 2013

Mini Mittens: Free Pattern

Every year I face the same dilemma:  what to get the kids' teachers.  (Admit it, you've been there.)  I almost always seek out unique Christmas ornaments as teacher gifts.  This year, it just seems like there's a pall over the economy and my bank account is making a loud sucking sound every time I fill the grocery cart to feed 3 growing kids. This year, we're going to be all about scaling back and giving from home and hearth.  My shop sales are about 1/3 of what they were last year at this time, so I know that I'm not the only one with these kinds of gift giving intentions.

I've decided to keep with the "tradition" of giving ornaments to teachers, but I'm going to make them this time around.  Heaven knows I have baskets full of left-overs from previous projects in just about every conceivable color and fiber combination.  After giving it some thought and doing some trial runs, I decided on Mini Mittens.  I looked and looked for the right pattern, but you know me, the best pattern is the one that I write for myself.  Any, because you know me, you know that it's going to be a pattern that can be done 2-at-a-time on a pair of circulars because why would I want the drama of DPNs and who wants to make one mini mitten at a time? Seriously.

I knit the green in some left-over Knit Picks Stroll Glimmer in Potion. I knit the tan in 100% undyed extra fine baby alpaca. That yarn was actually a sport weight, so it was a little thicker to work with, but the mittens still came out in the same size as the green mittens did. Each pair took a little over an hour to make and, voila! Two teacher gifts finished!  Zero monetary investment.  I estimate that a pair takes about 25 yards in the pattern directions, but I can whip out a pair of these mini mittens with about 15 yards including the 4-inch braid to tie them together.  In the first 12 hours of posting this pattern to Ravelry, there were 111 downloads, so I must not be the only one to think this is a cute pattern, right?

In case you suffer from a similar dilemma, I am sharing my pattern in time for last-minute holiday knitting.  You are always welcome to print it and use for yourself, but you are not allowed to reproduce it or sell the products from it. If you are thinking that this is something that might also fit an 18-inch doll, like say your daughter's American Doll, you and I are thinking alike.  If you get the gauge in the pattern, you will have a pair of mittens that fit this size of doll.

You can access my Mini Mittens pattern via Ravelry.  Happy holiday knitting!

November 18, 2013

Knit Picks Bulky Collection Giveaway!!!!

The holiday season is upon us, as is our lengthy list of knitted gifts that we are rushing to finish.  It's during this time that I think all of us think wistfully about the knitting we'd like to be doing for ourselves. Okay, well at least I'm thinking about the knitting that I'd like to be doing for myself.

In that spirit, I have this little gem to give away:  A PRINTED copy of the 2013 FallKnit Picks Bulky Collection pattern book.

My Everdene Wrap is on pgs. 22-25.

Here are the rules:  

1.  Since Zibeline Knits is going to become Cedar Hill Farm Co. Yarn & Fiber in January, let's get a head start on some FB presence.  To be qualified for this giveaway, you must LIKE my new FB page: Cedar Hill Farm Co.

2.  You must also leave a comment for this post about which of the patterns (it's okay if Everdene isn't your absolute favorite) you most want to knit and why.

3. If you'd like an extra entry, go ahead tweet this post and let me know in a second comment that you've done so.

You can check out the pattern collection here: 2014 Bulky Collection.

I will post the name of the winner on Monday, Dec. 2nd.  You will need to contact me one either FB or by email so that I can get your mailing address.

This giveaway is open to all U.S. and Canadian residents from today, Nov. 18th until Sunday, Dec. 1st.  

November 15, 2013

In Transition

I've mentioned before that I am going to be changing the name of my yarn company to be in line with our new farm company in January, and I'm glad that we've decided to wait until then to make it official.  I didn't realize when I said, "Sure, Honey, no problem" that there would be so many things to do.  Over three years, I've just done things a little at a time as my business has grown, so I guess that is why I misled myself into thinking this would be no trouble at all.  Over the course of a few days, I've built a website for the farm (Cedar Hill Farm Company), and on it is a link to my yarns in my Etsy shop for the time being.  The Etsy shop is still Zibeline Knits, and that won't change before the end of the year so don't panic. We have a FB page for the farm, also, but that is under construction, as well.  You are, of course, welcome to transfer your "like" from my Zibeline Knits page to my Cedar Hill Farm Company page if you like.  Actually, it would be appreciated.  We have a Twitter account, too: @cedarhillfarmco, and yesterday we got our first follower and he's a farmer in Germany. (That's not weird at all.)

And I tell you all of this because, well, when you come to the fiber festivals at which I will be A) vending or B) vending and teaching, Zibeline Knits won't be there; Cedar Hill Farm Company Hand Painted Yarn & Fiber will be there instead.

I was thrilled to be contacted out of the blue  this week by the organizer for the Festival of Alabama Fiber Arts in Montgomery, Alabama.  She invited me to teach a knitting class, and I cannot wait!  I'll be teaching Mastering Magic Loop, with a project option of 2-at-a-time socks, 2-at-a-time fingerless gloves, or a beret.  Yes, all of the patterns for the class will be mine.  You're welcome to sign up NOW because I only have a 2-hour block of time for a 9-person class. This is a new transition for me, as well, as my teaching has never really gone on the road like this.

I also have a confession to make. I'm working my way through a very large pair of man socks (Christmas pair #1) in Malabrigo Chocolate Amargo using my Ribbed Socks for Impatient Knitters pattern (see Free Stuff in the side bar for the pattern).

and a pair of fingerless gloves in Zibeline Knits Mission Sock Lakeside using my Sportswoman pattern (there will be few modifications),

and I have 3 more pair of man socks to make in the next 42 days, plus a sweater that I ripped back that I wanted to be done with by now but which will have to wait until after Christmas, and a semi-circular shawl design in the initial test-knit phase that I have half-way knit through on the needles and stares at me expectantly from the end table next to my knitting chair, and a SLEW of unfinished projects hibernating in the closet under the stairs, some almost a year old. That said, I desperately want to cast on for a new shawl that, truth be told, I probably won't even wear and a new pair of socks for me.  I've even been shopping for the yarn …for a week I have closed the cart every time before I've pulled out a credit card … but I couldn't hold out forever and I just broke down and ordered a new hank last night for that elusive pair of socks for me.  I think I have a disorder. It's a very self-defeating disorder common to all hard-core knitters and crocheters.  I have a feeling that you know what I'm talking about and are right there with me. I'm going to feel guilty about it for about 3 days--that's how long it will take for the yarn to arrive--and then I will, of course, forget all about how I probably shouldn't have ordered it.  It will be too awesome for regrets.

I haven't cast on for any of these new projects for me, but that doesn't mean that I haven't had moments of total distraction from my planned projects.  As a matter of a fact, there will be a new free pattern for your last minute (Holy Cow I forget to a get a gift for the bus driver!  What do you mean we're exchanging gifts at knitting club tomorrow?!) Christmas gift giving desperation.  It will be a cute surprise so check back.  Oh, and I'm starting that Knit Picks Bulky Collection print copy giveaway next week, too.  You will definitely want to get in on that!

And now I must go and knit in circles some more by the fire. It's in the low 40s and rainy this morning, which is a definite improvement from the 19 and 21 degrees F. mornings we've had all week, and who can think of house work on a day like this--though I did throw in a load of laundry earlier and that's my big accomplishment on the home front so far.  I think I am going to need to order more yarn to finish these man socks …

November 13, 2013

A little spinning

Did I show this off?  I meant to if I didn't.  This is one gorgeous hank of bfl/silk called Sun & Sea.

This hank is in my Etsy shop if you would like further details or to make it your own.

November 11, 2013

Let the Christmas knitting begin!

Here's an interesting and somewhat ironic tidbit to begin this post:  I'm beginning my slew of Christmas knitting projects and my studio is simultaneously being INVADED by lady bugs. It's November; we've had a string of 72 degrees and sunny days lately.  The chickens and the dogs aren't sure whether to bulk up or shed.  The cherry trees are in bloom but the hardwoods have lost almost all of their leaves. Does any of this seem a bit off?  So does my relationship with anything fiber related today.  Can't get in the groove today, so you get a new post to read.

First, second, third, and fourth up:  socks.  Fifth, gloves. The next four weeks are going to be a sock-knitting frenzy, and I think my best plan is going to be to work on two projects at once.  The last time I did that, I finished two pair at relatively the same time and it seemed that I knitted through them a bit faster having another pair to work on when I grew bored with the one in hand. I'll be updating and showing off my progress, but I won't tell who the socks and gloves are for (so you can just keep hoping that it's you, right?).

I cast on this pair last Friday.  I'm about four inches into them in the pictures.  My knitting model … that's Mittens.  She was just checking to see if I needed any help ripping back. She's big on ripping back whether it's needed or not.

November 07, 2013

New Friends to Knit With

Seems like it's been ages since I've enjoyed the company of fellow knitters and crocheters in a weekly gathering. When we moved to Commerce, I had to bid good-bye completely to the friends at Covington Knitters because the drive was too lengthy for a Saturday morning hang-out session.  I've barely been able to attend to knit with my Yarn Over friends in Monroe (that's the name of our Ravelry group and local club) because of distance and conflicting schedules. An angel must have been eavesdropping on my thoughts when I wished that I could find a group to join in Commerce and then literally minutes later saw a notice on the library marquis for Hooks & Needles, which meets at 10:30 on Monday mornings.  A week later I found myself amid a fun, welcoming group of crafters of all ages.  This week's attendance was so plentiful that, for a while there, every few minutes we were having to bring in another table to accommodate everyone.  I'm very excited to have joined such a great group of ladies!  They have a FB page, if you are in my area and want to look them up: Hooks & Needles.  As a matter of a fact, when I went to the page to get the link for you, I discovered that Whitney had snuck a photo of this week's Monday get-together and there I am, over on the left.

It was nice to show up for only my second meeting to find that the ladies still remembered my name. I am always so self-conscious about meeting new people, especially a room full of them, and it never helps that I can't remember the names of others right off the bat.  My former students and colleagues wouldn't believe this, but I'm rather shy around groups of strangers.  What makes this group additionally great is that many of the women are both avid crocheters and avid knitters with a wide range of experience, but they help the newbies without a second thought and with absolute patient attention.  I've known many a veteran who has been less than patient with the novice knitter or crocheter, that's for sure.  Stories of their off-color behavior have become legendary among my close friends, often involving hilarious re-enactments when remembered. (I know, that's really caddy.)

During this week's meeting, I was pleased to introduce someone who had never knit a stitch to the art of knitting.  By the time we left the library, she had the knit stitch down and was still excited about the experience. If you've ever taught someone to knit, you know that's sometimes not the case. I hope that she practices this week, as I've promised to teach her the purl stitch next week.  There just may be a dish cloth in her future, yet!  It's true what they say about knitting … everyone learns from a sister or a girlfriend.

This week was also this knitting of my last FO for myself, I fear, before Christmas.  I started this pair of Urbanista fingerless gloves on Sunday at the Royal Alpaca Challenge, brought it to knitting club on Monday, and finally worked the thumbs last night, giving me a new pair of fingerless gloves in Hound, a variation of the Flock 225 colorway.  I expect to have it available next week in my Rocket Sock Medium line.  I'm always a fan of a good spiral stripe!

I love making new friends through knitting, don't you?

November 04, 2013

New Horizons

This past weekend was spent, mostly in my booth, at the Royal Alpaca Challenge.  It was great fun to spend time with new and old alpaca friends while entertaining new and old customers and knitting club friends, as well.  I met many new people who, I hope, will continue to be in love with my patterns and my yarns long after the end of this show.  I certainly took time to coo over the too-cute-for-words alpaca in the pens in the arena, but didn't have my wits about me, apparently, and ended up taking no pictures of the animals this year at all.  Some friends were disappointed with the showing of their animals, some were thrilled, and some were over the moon!  I confess the photos of the fiber room were an afterthought, as I had forgotten my camera, so they lack the afternoon crowds and I had to take them on my Iphone.

Now that this last show of the year for me is over, it's time to concentrate on dying some new sock yarns for the upcoming holiday season.  It's also time to start planning for 2014.

In 2014 there will be a few changes around here.  The name of my company will change, for one.  Zibeline Knits will, effective January 1st, 2014, become Cedar Hill Yarns.  This coincides with the name of the farm (Cedar Hill Farm) that we are in the process of establishing. Nothing about my yarns and fibers will change except the labels and the shop name.  The fun thing is that my Honey and I are currently in negotiations for the opening of a yarn shop.  It will likely be located on the farm, but since we're just a side step off of a major interstate, that probably won't be an issue.  We also intend to offer farm-related products, like beeswax-based lip balms and body butters and fiber, as well as spinning and maybe quilting supplies.  There isn't a craft store within 50 miles of us, and I know that the women of my new knitting group aren't the only ones who have yarny needs. Since we also plan to sell fruits and veggies at the farmers' markets in our area, those would be available at the store, too.  On the horizon is also the raising of sheep and a twin set of alpaca, so there will be plenty of fiber available from our very own pastures.

So far I've set up the blog and the email for the farm/yarn shop (, and that leaves the web domain and the licensing to take care of.  There will still be an Etsy shop that offers my hand paints, patterns, and roving.  It will just have a new name.  If you follow me on FB or Twitter, you'll get a link to the new Etsy shop and FB page in January.  I hope you will follow me over to the new digs.

The first show I'll be attending, then, will probably be the Souther Select alpaca show near Sevierville, TN.  We'll see how the new year begins before deciding for sure. I'm also hoping to attend the Festival of Alabama Fiber Arts in Montgomery, Alabama at the end of April, but I'm on the waiting list so you never know.

And that's how my first week of November is beginning … full of dreams and expectations for the months ahead.

October 31, 2013

Carding Central

This week is all about getting ready for my next fiber show, the Royal Alpaca Challenge in Conyers, Georgia.  Although it isn't technically a "yarn" show, it's an opportunity for me to hang out with some pretty darned cute alpaca, eavesdrop on a class or two being held in the fiber room (where my booth will be located), chat with friends I haven't seen in ages, offer my wares to the public, and, of course, get in some extra knitting time!

Since I don't only dye yarn and design knitwear patterns, I have begun to take advantage of having an incredible group of local alpaca breeders from whom I can acquire entire blanket fleeces in a rainbow of colors pretty much any time I need them.  I didn't go to SAFF (Southeastern Animal and Fiber Fair) this year, which goes against what has become an annual trip for fleece.  Not going to SAFF hasn't actually impacted my fleece stash any, though.  The point is, I have several trash bags full of fluffy clouds of alpaca in my new studio that are just begging for someone to spin them into something magic.  So this week, it's been Carding Central around here.  The Royal Alpaca Challenge offers a spinners' circle and classes, and spinners at an alpaca show need alpaca to spin, so I've been drum carding some newly acquired fleece in dark grey, silver, and maroon.  Of course, I'll also bring some uncarded (but cleaned) maroon cria fleece in case anyone wants to card/blend it themselves. The batts are pretty lovely in all their natural and undyed glory. And even if you aren't joining the circle, well I will have plenty of alpaca and llama batts for you to take home to your own wheel.

Of course, you can also get alpaca from me via my Etsy shop just like what I'll be taking to the alpaca show.  If you are looking for something that you don't see in the shop, send me a message and I'll see what I can do for you.

I've also donated two hanks of hand painted fingering weight handspun (70% cria (baby) alpaca / 30% soy silk).  I've put off all of the housework the past few days, especially the folding of the laundry that lies in mounds throughout the house, and spun them on my Kromski Sonata because I always end up waiting until the last minute with these things. Having just finished them this morning, I dyed them with some bright but woodsy colors that are perfect for this late autumn season.

I hope they bring a good price, as the proceeds from the auction go to the Georgia Alpaca Association, which promotes the promotion and advancement of alpacas and alpaca breeders in Georgia through educational opportunities.  It's a good cause, especially since I have heard tell that at least one couple from Atlanta visited an alpaca farm recently and asked the farmer if the blue free-range hens eggs they saw in the grass had been laid by his alpaca. (No joke.) Of course, my two hanks of handspun aren't the only items up for auction. I'm on the fence about taking the triangle loom that I procured from this auction last year since I hear tell that there will be a triangular loom class this weekend during the festivities.  There also appears to be another 3-foot loom that has been donated for the auction.

Because there are other things on my mind this week besides the RAC,  here's a little preview of my upcoming blog giveaway, which I hope to host next week:

There will be a giveaway for at least one, but maybe two, printed copies of the new Knit Picks Bulky collection which features my Everdene wrap.

If you've already gotten your Knit Picks catalogue, that's my wrap on pg. 12.  (I'm still doing a happy dance!)  I'm waiting on the mailman to bring these copies, so probably next week I will be inviting everyone to enter.

October 29, 2013

FO: Skywalker Semi-circular Shawl

This little number has been finished for a few weeks now, but I've been hanging on to it until my mama's birthday.  This is my modified version of Laura Nelkin's Skywalker.

Months and months ago, my mama gave me a few skeins of Miansuoxi Mountain Goat Mink/Cashmere because it was a much lighter weight than she had thought it would be (one in a petal pink and one in this racy Christmas-y red).  My mama is a lover of all things red, so I knew that I was going to have to do something with the red skein for her.

This shawl was a pretty simply pattern to knit, but I did make one considerable change to the pattern.  In the pattern, there are two separate sections that use what is referred to as the "plasma stitch".  Knitters know this stitch as the Seafoam Stitch.  

Unfortunately, after knitting it and tearing it out multiple times, I realized that the yarn that I was using was just not meant to knit this pattern stitch.  It looked too wonky and uneven--a silkier yarn  would have worked better to stretch out the dropped stitches, but not cashmere/mink.  So, to combat this dilemma, I chose a pattern stitch to replace the number of rows that would be used up by these two sections and knit those rows with a mirrored totem pole stitch.  

Because this took up the total number or rows for two non-adjacent sections, this change really altered the look of the shawl, though I think it looks better than the original design, myself. In my version, there is one less patterned section, but the stitch count came out just fine and I just cruised to the end of the last section.  This pattern then required me to knit on instead of graft on a border. The entirety of the body of the shawl took me a week to knit. The edging, itself, took another week.  It was a fiddly repeat of about 4-12 stitches, depending on the row and it just seemed to go on, and on, and on …

I've given this shawl to my mother for her birthday, though I expect that she will wear it more like a scarf or a cowl than an over-the-shoulder shawl. It will be a perfect accessory for the holiday season, I think.

October 24, 2013

The Daily Hat

So you know that I have a new line of yarn out this fall/winter called Flock 225, right.  It's pure virgin wool and I love, love, love it!  I love it so much that I designed a cute lace beret with it:  The Daily Hat.

This is the kind of hat that you stuff in your coat pocket or purse when you go inside and wear everywhere for every occasion when you go outside.  It's apparently so amazing that my 10 year-old, my now nearly professional knitwear model, who pretty much "hates" every knitted thing made for her, even if she specifically asks for it, said "This is an awesome slouchy mom!"  She's already made her request and swears she'll "wear it all the time!"  It's passed the diva pre-teen test, so you know it's going to be a crowd pleaser.

The Daily Hat is designed as a one-size-fits-all (she's 10 and it fits her; I haven't been 10 in a very long time and it fits me) and is constructed using a diamond moss stitch pattern that I am absolutely in love with. (There seems to be a lot of love associated with this hat!) I knit the whole thing in a few days, and that includes making notes as I went.  The construction is simple and can be accomplished on a 16-inch cable or larger if you prefer, like I do, to work everything with the magic loop method. The pattern includes written directions. I thought about doing a chart for the diamond moss stitch pattern, but we're talking about a chart for a 9-stitch repeat, basically, so a chart just seemed too fiddly.

This pattern is now available on Ravelry, Etsy, and Craftsy.  If you happen to be in my neck of the woods, it will also be available in print form at the Royal Alpaca Challenge in Conyers, Georgia (Nov. 1-3).

October 23, 2013

Everdene and The Collection

Today is the big day.  Really big.  So excited that I could burst!!!!!

The Everdene Wrap makes its debut in Knit Picks latest (due to be released today so keep your eyes peeled!) Bulky Fall/Winter Pattern Collection (I have no idea if that's the actual title--this has been a very hush, hush endeavor).  As of this minute, it hasn't appeared on the website (I've been checking every 30 minutes or so since 5:30 am), but it's coming.  I can only show a few snippets, I'm afraid, until after the big reveal.


At first, I was downtrodden when I received the email a year ago about my submission that said "we can't use your pattern for the submission collection", but then I read further and the email said that my pattern was going to be used for a special collection.  Okay, that's cool, right?  So I followed the schedule, felt totally awkward and apologetic for my lack of experience with the whole professional publication process--usually they just say "Here's some yarn. Write it, test it, format it however you like, photograph it, send it in."  Not this time.  There were rules and editors and deadlines and photo shoots and templates.  The more the year progressed, the more unclear I was about why there were so many hoops to jump through.  There was a considerable amount of secrecy and tidbits of information doled out on a need-to-know basis.  Glenna C.'s Classic Color collection came out on the Knit Picks website in September, and when the catalogue arrived in my mailbox I thought "how amazing would it be if my pattern were to be printed in the catalogue in a special collection layout like this!"  (Secretly I long to be Glenna C.  No joke.  She's my knitting idol.)  When the pattern came to my inbox for final edits, it was GORGEOUS!!!  I was thrilled to the core just with the way they made my written instructions seem so polished and had done the charting for me so nicely, let alone with the pictures of the seriously beautiful model wearing the test-knit in a bright teal color I hadn't expected but absolutely loved.  I was going to be happy with a footnote at the back of the catalogue at this point just because the pattern was such absolute eye candy.

And then came a request for me to write a description of the inspiration for the pattern.  Well, that was new.  No one who had agreed to publish my patterns has asked for that before.  I guess it's a good thing that I actually had one.  Coincidentally, my mother had asked me the very same thing about two weeks prior--"Why did you name it Everdene?"

Here's why:  The wrap is pretty simple.  I could have made it incredibly complicated, but the bulky recycled yarn that I had originally begun to knit it with was sort of rustic and tweedy and I thought, you know, something rustic and simple is what this yarn wants.  So that was the onset of the pattern. When I sent in the submission, Knit Picks sent me a dark solid yarn to test the pattern with (Wallaby), and wow!, that really made the pattern pop!  And when it was knit up and I tried it on, I got the picture of a novel heroine in my head and I just knew that one of my favorite authors, Thomas Hardy, had created a character in Far From the Madding Crowd that would, seriously, wear this wrap to market or for a stroll down a country lane with a beau she had no intention of marrying. I guess that's a little too much of the English teacher pushing through, right?  So, to make a long story short, I named it Everdene after the tragic heroine Bathsheba Everdene.  (She's only tragic because she's too much of a diva for rural Victorian England and can't ever be satisfied.) By definition, I guess that makes this wrap the perfect accessory for both the pastoral beauty AND the urban diva.  Such a deal!

And then it came.  The email that pretty much bowled me over and left me sputtering.  The one that said "We will be sending you … copies of the book."  Really? There's a book?  Yes. There's a book.  My Everdene Wrap is in a BOOK!!  Wow.  What else does one say to that besides just "Wow." Weeks later, I'm still just saying "Wow", but gushing with joy when I say it (and still doing my happy dance). I just wish Blogger would quit changing the color of the picture every time I load a new one.

So now I am nervously (I don't know why "nervously" because I have the photo shoot pics and I know what it's going to look like) awaiting the arrival of my copies of "The Book" and the debut on the Knit Picks website. (Yes, I just paused to see if it had gone live yet; it hasn't.)

I hope everyone will go to the website and check it out, buy it, knit it, love it, show up at some fiber festival where I have a booth and show it off ... because, well, it is written for a variety of sizes and it's IN A BOOK!

Happy knitting to you all! (Happy dance, happy dance!)


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